As the last shift finishes at the Jeebropilly Mine at Amberley this week, the coal miners clocking off will be the final ones to do so in more than 170 years of coal mining in Ipswich.
The mine opened in 1982, and though considered small and thin-seem mining particularly difficult, this little-mine-that-could produced 32 million tonnes of coal product in its 37 years.
The official closing ceremony took place on Wednesday, 18 December and with the words ‘we officially close the last operating coal mine in the Ipswich coal fields’, it was done.
The mine’s general manager Trent Knack stood before dignitaries and employees past and present to thank those who made the mine, what he described as – not just a coal mine.
“You see Jeebropilly isn’t a location, it’s not a place, it’s not even a mine – Jeebropilly is its people,” Mr Knack said.
“We know what we have to do, we know who we are, and what it is we stand for, we embrace it and we love it because we are, and we always will be, Jeebropilly, and we’re darn proud.
“The real value of a mine like Jeebropilly isn’t measured in dollars, it’s measured in spirit, a spirit that has flowed into our communities through our local workforce since 1981.
“A spirit that will continue to have a presence here as many of us stay living locally, embracing everything that our great communities have to offer.”
As the workers embraced each other there were both smiles and tears.
About 100 full time workers will now be either retiring, moving on to other jobs or looking for work.
“I will probably never work with such a tight knit group of people ever again, it’s been a good journey,” said James Russell.
“For most of my working life I could go home punching the air almost like a football player scoring that match winning try,” Mark Rawlings said.
“Sounds a bit corny but this is how it was for me.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of being part of a team that has taken a great deal of time to consider our people and how we can assist them as part of the closure,” Taryn Charlton said.
“If only we had another 10 years.”
Mr Knack said the Jeebropilly operators had honed their skills on thin coal seams with large mining equipment.
“I’ve seen our tractors separate partings in two inches of coal, in the witching hours on drizzly rainy nights,” Mr Knack said.
“Our excavator, loaders and trucks became poetry in motion as the machines produced industry best productivity and efficiencies through our highly skilled fleet operators.
“Our fitters and maintenance teams have developed and implemented leading maintenance practices and innovation that has allowed the wheels and tracks to keep moving on our aging fleets.”
The ceremony wrapped up with Mr Knack presenting the last lumps of coal dug from the ground to the Ipswich Historical Society, Queensland Resource Council, New Hope Group and the CFMEU.
Past chief operating officer for New Hope Group Bruce Denney, Queensland Resource Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane, West Moreton Operations general manager Trent Knack, CFMEU’s Shane Brunker and Ipswich Historial Society president Hugh Taylor with the last coal mined from Jeebropilly Mine.